Our Town Needs a Nandos by YEP writer Sam O’Rourke arrives at the Everyman
1 year ago
Sam O’Rourke had her first non-acting experience of theatre when she walked through the doors of the Everyman to join its YEP writers’ programme.
Aged 22, YEP showed her how to be a part of it without having to be in the spotlight.
Now eight years on, she’s back in Hope Street with her play Our Town Needs a Nando’s – and with a cast that includes three YEP acting graduates and a YEP assistant director.
“Seeing the posters outside was a huge moment for me,” says Sam. “When I was here doing the writers’ programme that would have been my ultimate dream, but I didn’t know if I could ever be good enough.
“I’ve had work on in lots of other places since then, but it means much more to be here than anywhere.”
Sam spent three years with YEP after studying drama and English at university.
“I’d seen an am-dram version of Sound of Music when I was about four and I just got completely obsessed with the theatre,” she says. “When I was younger, I did every production I could just to be involved, because at that age you just see the audience-facing part of theatre, but then I realised I didn’t really love performing, I just wanted to be around plays and stories.
“Getting onto YEP was an opportunity to ask lots of questions in an environment where people were really supportive and generous, and it made me see writing could be an actual job.”
It was when she was working in schools alongside writing that she got the inspiration for Our Town Needs a Nandos.
A comedy drama with a social conscience, the play gives a voice to the frustrations and issues faced by teenage girls.
“For the last few years there’s been this impression of progress in terms of women being able to say if they’re uncomfortable or talk about their experiences, but being in schools really made me aware that there hadn’t been a real world ripple effect – it was still the same to be 13 or 14, girls wouldn’t feel like they could speak up and it didn’t feel any different to when I was at school.
“That’s how the play started, with something that really bothered me in those lessons, but I think everyone will recognise how they felt at that very self-conscious time when they were trying to work out who they were. It’s very familiar territory.”
As for the title, Our Town Needs a Nandos, 30-year-old Sam says that’s less about chicken and more about levelling up or the lack of it.
“It was a silly summing up the small things you don’t have when you live rurally. When you grow up in a place that’s under-funded and neglected by London and you don’t have something as mundane as a Nandos, honestly there’s nothing so exciting as driving there to have dinner, you’re absolutely buzzing!”